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History Monks (also known as The Order of Wen the Eternally Surprised, The Fighting Order of Wen, Men In Saffron and No Such Monastery) is a fictional secretive religious organisation in the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett, based in the Monastery of Oi-Dong. They are one of a large number of monastic orders that occupy the high Ramtops. A Buddhist-like sect, it maintains Discworld history, based on the huge History Books in their Ramtop monastery.
|Founded||Wen the Eternally Surprised, although exactly when is probably impossible to say|
|Location||Valley of Oi Dong, in the high Ramtops|
|Purpose||Maintaining Discworld history|
Qu's devices that explode unexpectedly.
|Powers||Control over time and limited time travel|
Monks trained by Lu-Tze can pass unnoticed anywhere
The Order first appears in Small Gods where they are described as having the responsibility of observing significant events so that they become 'history', instead of just things that happen. However, there is a slight reference to the Order in Guards! Guards!, where at the end of the novel there are many bright orange robed men loading barrels and one specifically mentions the name Lobsang. They also have a responsibility to see history follows the right track, as set out in the huge lead-bound History Books—20,000 of them, ten feet high, with printing small enough to need a magnifying glass to read. "When people say it is written—it is written here." According to Small Gods, three people go at a time to access the books because once in the past one person used to go in alone, learn about the future, and won a large sum in bets before he was found out.
In Thief of Time we find that this is a simplification, and the main role of the monastery is to ensure anything happens at all. To do this, they have a number of methods for moving and storing time, for example by means of spinning cylinders called procrastinators. Procrastinators look like Tibetan prayer wheels. (It having been established as early as Wyrd Sisters time is fluid on the Disc, the Monks must ensure this does not become a problem by, for instance, taking some time from the middle of the ocean ('how much time does a codfish need?') and putting it in a busy Ankh-Morpork workshop with a deadline to meet.)
A number of monks have been trained as ninja to take a more direct hand in events, though many of them have since been retrained by Lu-Tze on the justification that most problems can be sorted out without resorting to martial arts.
Because of the Order's control of Time, the valley is permanently reliving a perfect day, the cherry blossoms eternally falling. This is a source of annoyance for Lu-Tze, who actually wants the cherries themselves, though this problem is fixed at the end of Thief of Time by Lobsang Ludd, the new personification of Time.
Lu-Tze first appeared in the novel Small Gods as a minor character. His name is an allusion to the Chinese legendary figure Lao-Tze, the sage to whom the Tao Te Ching is attributed. He is one of the History Monks and spends much of the novel in the background, disguised as a simple sweeper. He also deliberately changes the course of history because he didn't like the way things "should" go, replacing a horrific war with a century of peace.
Lu-Tze has a more substantial role in Thief of Time, in which we learn that he is not a monk at all, but "merely" a sweeper at the Monastery of Oi-Dong. The lack of a formal title, in fact, gives him fewer restrictions than his contemporaries. In fact, he uses the same trick (that no-one notices a sweeper) in the monastery as he does when out in the world, and has learnt as much about the nature of time as some of the higher monks simply by tidying up the classrooms. Everyone knows Lu-Tze's name as one of the best monks on the field, but few realise who he actually is. He is generally referred to just as "Sweeper". This is in part a reference to Martin, the pessimist philosopher and sweeper in Voltaire's Candide.
He is very good at martial arts when he needs to be and is the only known master of "Déjà fu", in which the hands move in time as well as space. This is best described as 'the feeling you've been kicked in the head this way before'. Generally he relies on the fact that no-one notices a sweeper, a well-honed ability to talk his way out of anything, and "Rule One", which states "Do not act incautiously when confronting little bald wrinkly smiling men", since such a person is almost always a highly trained martial artist due to the Disc's law of narrative causality. It is the opinion of many that Lu-Tze uses Rule One to bluff his way out of trouble, but, if necessary, he can prove it's no bluff. He does this towards the end of Thief of Time by defeating Lobsang Ludd (then incarnated as the personification of Time) in a fair fight, in front of a crowd of higher monks. As he said, "Def'nitely give the ol' Rule One a fillip."
He is a devout follower of The Way of Mrs. Cosmopilite, a way of life of his own devising which he created after lodging with Marietta Cosmopilite in Ankh-Morpork, some of which is explained in more detail in Lu-Tze's Yearbook of Enlightenment.
Lobsang (born Newgate Ludd) was raised by the Ankh-Morpork Thieves' Guild, but was discovered by Soto of the History Monks when Lobsang performed the Stance of the Coyote (the effect is not fully explained, though it is presumably a reference to Wile E. Coyote's ability to pause in mid-air for comic effect) in order to save his own life after falling from a rooftop, which would have killed him. Afterwards he was sent to and raised in the Temple, where he confounded his teachers by knowing too much, but not knowing how he knows it, and even then not knowing that he knows it till he is asked the specific question. Eventually he was apprenticed to Lu-Tze after his teachers were unable to teach him. This move was not entirely in Lobsang's best interests—due to internal politics, it was hoped they would "break" each other. Lu-Tze theorised that time's hold on him was "loose", for example, Lobsang could demonstrate a negative reaction time—moving towards something before it starts moving, though this theory eventually proved to be wrong. During this time he showed several unique powers, being able to sense the direction of a time disturbance, balancing the "load" of time down to less than a second after a Time Crash (which a man with 50,000 years experience claims he couldn't even hope to do) and reacting to (and being reacted to by) the Mandala, a visual display of Time on the Disk. After the time crash he goes out into the world to stop the second Glass Clock (under the pretext of being shown the Way of Mrs Cosmopilite), which was being constructed by his then unknown temporal double, Jeremy Clockson.
It is revealed after time stops that he can make his own time, and pairs up with Susan Sto Helit to stop the Clock. He finds out about his "brother" (who is actually him, just having led a different life and born a second after him) and after touching him, they combine, and it is revealed that he is the son of Wen the Eternally Surprised and the personification of Time. After fusing with Jeremy, Lobsang inherited all of Time's powers (though due to his inexperience he needs "time" to recharge them initially) and eventually takes over her role. Due to his nature, even before this, Death could not see him, as he lies outside of Death's influence.
At the end of Thief of Time he shares an unspecified "perfect moment" with Susan Sto Helit (a.k.a. Susan Death), who is also a human who inherited qualities from an anthropomorphic personification. Lobsang inherited powers directly from his parent; she, indirectly from a foster grandparent (Death). However, unlike Susan, who is mostly human, Lobsang is "mostly not" human—he has the mindset and "infuriating smile" of a God, and thinks in 18 dimensions—he claims that even seeing in only 4 is hard, making it difficult to maintain corporeal form. His incarnation of Jeremy had romantic inclinations to Myria LeJean, the first embodied Auditor, who shared the feeling but wasn't able to express it, due firstly to Jeremy's nullification and secondly due to her committing suicide via 10,000-gallon vat of chocolate at the end of Thief of Time.
- Wen the Eternally Surprised. The founder of the order, and the writer of the History Books. Wen was the first person to fully grasp the nature of time—that the only thing that exists in the universe is the present, that the past is only a memory, and that the universe is literally broken down and rebuilt by Time from moment to moment, in an interval which would come to be known as the "quantum cosmic tick". Considering this, he said, the only appropriate state of mind is surprise; and of the heart, joy. Wen is also involved in a relationship with the personification of Time, the only man she ever stopped for.
- Clodpool the Apprentice. Wen's extremely stupid apprentice. Wen stated that if Clodpool could learn his teachings, anyone could.
- The Abbot. One of the wisest minds on the Disc, capable of thinking in sixteen dimensions (only two fewer than Time claims to think in). He has not acquired the "circular-aging" (a form of immortality) ability of the other monks, however, and must therefore reincarnate. His body is about a year old during Thief of Time, though his mind is certainly many centuries old.
- Qu. A mechanically-minded, white-haired monk with a fascination for things that go bang. Qu invents most of the weaponry that the order's martial artists take on their missions into the world. His name is an allusion to the inventor and equipper Q of the double-o agents in the James Bond series.
- Marco Soto. A monk with a huge ponytail, he claims he does have a shaved head and the hair is a separate entity. This has done wonders for his ability to get sent out on assignments far from the monastery, and he is currently the head of the History Monks based in Ankh-Morpork. A student of Lu-Tze, he knows there are many ways for a monk to become invisible, but the best is to be holding a begging-bowl (the bowl was made by the aforementioned Qu). Devoted to peace and cosmic harmony, as long as no-one touches his hair.
- Soon Shine Sun. Another monk based in Ankh-Morpork. Soon Shine Sun runs the second-hand clothes shop ("shonky" shop) next to the Order's Ankh-Morpork temple. He avoids awkward questions by feigning a near total inability to speak the Morporkian language.
- Rinpo. The chief acolyte and long suffering nanny to the abbot when he is in his baby state. He is described as "the kind of mildly objectionable person who engendered an irresistible urge in any right-thinking person to pour goo into his hair and hit him with a rubber yak", and the abbot does just that at any and every opportunity. It is his idea to make Lobsang the apprentice of Lu-Tze in the hope that they will break each other. He often shows contempt for the sweeper, being offended by the fact that a man in such a low station has achieved so much.